Discoid Lupus in Dogs

Discoid lupus in dogs can affect both canines and human beings. It is a sub form of lupus, a disease of the autoimmune system, though discoid lupus is generally considered to be a benign and therefore less harmful version of the condition. Dogs get discoid lupus when parts of the immune system react negatively and begin to attack the body. The exact reason for this attack is unknown, although there have been some correlations made with certain breeds and higher risk for developing this condition, including German Shepherds, huskies and collies. Read on for a brief overview of the symptoms, diagnostic methods and treatment options for discoid lupus.

Symptoms of Lupus in Dogs

Discoid lupus affects the skin only. For this reason, it is generally considered to not be a harmful condition, and dogs with this disease can live otherwise very normal and healthy lives. However, there are a few potential complications that can arise from a case of discoid lupus that is left undiagnosed and untreated, so it's a good idea to be aware of the symptoms of this condition so that you can recognize it in your dog if he should develop it. The common symptoms of discoid lupus are as follows:

  • Loss of pigmentation, particularly around the face
  • Loss of hair
  • Minor destruction of tissue on the skin of the face
  • Ulcers, sores and lesions

Diagnosing Dog Lupus

A prompt diagnosis of lupus is helpful in order to ensure that your pet does not suffer from any complications of this disease. Parts of your dog's skin that lose their pigmentation and hair are therefore more exposed to the sun, which increases the risk of developing sun-related conditions like skin cancer.

If you suspect that your pet may be showing early signs of discoid lupus, take note of his symptoms and bring him in to a vet immediately for testing and diagnosis. Your vet will analyze the symptoms that you mention and will determine if a skin biopsy is necessary. Most vets will sedate pets temporarily in order to take a small biopsy of tissue from the face for testing. A laboratory analysis of this tissue can determine whether or not the condition is caused by discoid lupus.

Treating Lupus in Dogs

There are a variety of different treatment options for discoid lupus, and the choice that works best for you will depend upon your pet's condition and its severity. In mild cases, avoiding the sun may help to prevent any complications. Vitamin E supplements are also helpful at treating mild skin irritation and conditions. In more serious cases, you may need to provide your pet with a topical steroid solution to avoid any irritation and swelling that may occur. The most severe cases of discoid lupus are usually addressed with oral immunosuppressive drugs, which prevent the immune system from attacking the skin but also lower your pet's defenses against other diseases and potential infections. Ask your vet for a recommendation of the best treatment for your pet.